By the end, he was just another Detroit quarterback being chased by Minnesota linemen, and there have been so many of those they start to blend together. The stands were emptying. Boos were heard. When the gun sounded, Matthew Stafford walked off the field alone, passing a mob of cameras surrounding Brett Favre. It could have been last year, the year before, or five years before that.
But it’s not. It’s 2009, and the Lions have decided to live or die with a rookie quarterback. Twice on Sunday, when they had the kind of momentum that can change a game, Stafford changed it in the other direction, slinging interceptions that took the wind of the crowd and the aura out of the occasion.
Deja new. Stafford played fairly well in this home opener, but a pick in the second quarter and a pick in the fourth quarter and an overthrow on one potential touchdown and an underthrow on another and, heck, that’s enough. These are the Lions, remember? He isn’t working with a big margin of error.
“A lot of rookie mistakes at quarterback are misreads,” said Jim Schwartz after the 27-13 loss, insisting Stafford’s mistakes were not, that the QB just needs to learn “discretion is the better part of valor.”
Once again, Schwartz is quoting Shakespeare. You gotta like that.
Then again, that quote is from Falstaff, who played dead on the battlefield.
Should a Lions coach really go there? Learn how to finish – or be finished
Oh, well. I’d rather have a guy who goes for it on fourth-and-one early in the game – as Schwartz did Sunday – than a guy who doesn’t. I’d rather have a quarterback who thinks he can make a pass than one who hesitates because he can’t.
Mostly, I prefer a team that tries, loses, and doesn’t talk about moral victories, and at least the Lions didn’t do that. They had some good moments Sunday – three sacks of Favre, a fumble recovery, impressive bursts by Kevin Smith – but overall, there was too much familiar and not enough original.
“We gotta learn how to finish,” Smith said.
Right. Because the funny thing is, until the closing minutes of the second half, the Lions actually led the Vikings, 10-0. You could hear the cry across the American sports landscape: “Huh?”
Sadly, after halftime, the Lions took a sack on their first play from scrimmage, a sack on their third, and fumbled on their fifth. They were suddenly down, 17-10, and the afternoon’s die was cast. Bad penalties were called. The seats began to empty.
“It was great getting introduced to the fans, going crazy for us and getting loud” Stafford said afterwards, but “it’s our job to give them something to cheer about in the second half.”
Deja new. Sooner or later, they have to win, right?
Now, Stafford and Schwartz should understand; for us this is like playing a pick-up game against guys who always win. They switch players, it doesn’t matter. They switch uniforms, it doesn’t matter.
So now we have Favre beating us in purple. He used to beat us in green. Adrian Peterson runs through us, but before him it was Chester Taylor, or Miwelde Moore or Robert Smith.
In terms of melodrama, it’s the same old tears on a new pillow.
In terms of football, it’s 19 straight losses.
So here’s the best we can say. So far, the Lions have played two of the best teams in the NFC. They lost both, but they got bloody and gave bloody. If they stay aggressive, a win will come. At some point in an NFL season you get a win because you are more into it that day than the other guys.
Schwartz must protect against the gloomy fog of a losing locker room. You do that by attacking. There was a play Sunday where the Lions had a punt in their own territory and for a moment, they broke formation and switched the punter to quarterback.
They ultimately switched back, because Schwartz knows discretion versus valor better than his quarterback. But you like the spirit. When you haven’t won in two calendar years, new is better than deja. And they can only go up from here.
Contact MITCH ALBOM: 313-223-4581 or firstname.lastname@example.org.